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State Board of Education seeks ‘constitutional clarity’ on new Michigan education department

school classroom full of desks

Michigan’s State Board of Education is asking Attorney General Dana Nessel to weigh in on whether a newly created education department is constitutional.

Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order to establish the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential, or MiLEAP. The department is responsible for strengthening pre-K and higher education to promote economic and population growth in the state.

But in a statement, the state board of education said the Michigan Constitution grants them authority “over all public education” and that "there appears now to be potentially two departments with overlapping authority."

Board President Pamela Pugh told the Detroit Free Press they’re concerned MiLEAP could subject the state’s education system to political influence from future governors.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to request a formal opinion from Nessel on the constitutionality of the new department.

Members of the board did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

"When the Department of Attorney General receives a formal request for opinion, we will review it and respond accordingly," Danny Wimmer, press secretary for Nessel, said

Whitmer's press secretary Stacey LaRouche, said in a statement that the governor's office is confident in its legal standing on MiLEAP.

"For too long, we have thought of education as just K-12, but we know students also need support in pre-K and higher education," she said. "That’s why Michigan parents, educators, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle have been making the case for years for a department, like MiLEAP, that will help students at every step of their education.

"We consulted with our attorneys at the Department of Attorney General. We are confident in our legal authority and look forward to working with everyone who is serious about providing Michigan students with a world class public education.”

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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